Can Patriots’ Riley McCarron Step Up After Learning From Best Slot Receivers?

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FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots wide receiver Riley McCarron couldn’t have found better professors as he’s gone through slot schooling a year into his NFL career.

First, McCarron worked under Wes Welker, an offensive assistant coach, as a rookie in training camp with the Houston Texans last year.

“It was great,” McCarron. “Obviously he’s had a stellar career, and his knowledge of the game is phenomenal. Learning from any of those great receivers is an awesome opportunity for me.”

Then Danny Amendola was around to answer questions for McCarron after the Iowa product joined the Patriots practice squad early in the 2017 season.

“Danny was an awesome guy and especially just opening up to me about his knowledge of the game,” McCarron said. “Just being able to watch him and the way he went about his business and the way he played the game and attacked it and certain things. Anything I could absorb from him was definitely good for me.”

And now McCarron has Julian Edelman to lean on as he goes through the offseason workout program in his second season with the Patriots.

“Any time he’s been out here, I’ll ask him questions about — whether it’s punt return, offense,” McCarron said. “He’s been a great asset out here, as well.”

Welker, Amendola and Edelman are slot legends for the Patriots. McCarron could potentially be the next in line. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, he’s undersized like his predecessors, and he’s an even better athlete. The role is open for the taking with Amendola on the Miami Dolphins and Edelman facing a four-game suspension.

McCarron is competing in spring sessions with rookie slot receiver Braxton Berrios, a sixth-round pick out of Miami.

“I’m just trying to carve out a role,” McCarron said. “Obviously there’s been a great group of guys out here in the past, but I’m just trying to continue to learn and try to carve out a role.”

Welker, Amendola and Edelman unsurprisingly are players McCarron watched growing up in Iowa.

“Any time you see those guys on TV, it’s just awesome,” McCarron said. “It’s pretty much the dream.”

Despite Amendola’s departure and Edelman’s suspension, McCarron still is a longshot to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster in September. But Welker, Amendola and Edelman were NFL longshots before him, and McCarron’s ability to return punts and kicks can only help him in his quest for a role.

He’s had the right teachers. Now McCarron has to practice what they’ve preached.

Thumbnail photo via Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports Images

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